Any given week, there are oodles of cycling stories flying around in the news. So here’s a quick-hit summary of this week’s happenings, plus my own garbage opinions on each. Much like my gambling advice, these takes are for entertainment purposes only!
Guys, I’m really worried about Team Sky, and it has nothing to do with TUEs, Jiffy bags, or marginal gains. I’m afraid team staff isn’t taking the time to make sure their riders are well-rounded intellectuals who are prepared for the rigors of post-cycling life. Take this quote from Geraint Thomas about the team’s recent PR statement: “I haven’t read it all. Six pages is quite a lot to read.” For starters, there were eight pages, but hey, who’s counting (we are)? Math problems aside, I think it’s time for Sky to encourage its riders to read more. I have an answer: the Team Sky Book Club! I recommend Deepak Chopra’s “The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life” as a first read. Tons of marginal information gains in that book. Give the lads something to do in the evenings after pummeling the peloton on Alpine stages.
Our old friend and longtime contributor Rupert Guinness has finished more Tours de France than anyone in the peloton these days. Yes, I know he wasn’t riding those Tours, he was working as a reporter. Here’s the thing: reporting at le Tour is strange and grueling endurance challenge of a different flavor. Every day brings a new post-race scrum filled with pushy (and sweaty) European journalists, then a new impending deadline, and finally, a search for your budget-friendly French hotel. What does a vacation from this slog look like? Rupe is going to take a nice, relaxing ride across the Australian Outback. All of it. That’s why he’s my “Belgian guy of the week.” No peloton to draft in, no team cars to provide sticky bottles (ahem, Mr. Bardet), just 5,470 kilometers of windy Australian road.
Back in 2012, when the U.S. Postal Service doping story unraveled, my James Bond-loving inner child loved the idea of “motoman,” the mysterious European guy who shuttled doping supplies to the team astride a motorcycle. These days, I often wonder if similarly shady secret operatives are to blame for cycling’s various wacky stories. My conspiracy-loving inner child was awoken this week when video surfaced of Gianni Moscon’s front wheel exploding during the TTT at Tirreno. Luckily Moscon is OK, because the crash could have done serious damage. Have you seen the video? Moscon’s wheel exploded like it was packed with M-80s, nitroglycerine, and pop rocks. Here’s my garbage conspiracy take: Moscon’s wheel was detonated at the behest of the bike industry villains, as a way to distract us all from the recent disc brake drama! Some secret agent, probably now sipping a Negroni in a Tuscan bar, snuck into Team Sky’s truck and planted a remote-control explosive device into the wheel. Voila! We’re now debating the tensile strength of carbon wheels, rather than the danger of spinning knives.
I don’t race much on the road, and when I do, it’s pretty forgettable. But one thing that sticks with me is that, sometimes, the more you want a result, the harder it is to get one. You have to let victories come to you, and patience is key. If you get a little too thirsty, a little too focused on the prize, bad stuff happens, like, you know, touching wheels in the sprint and crashing yourself out. So that’s why I’m worried for Fernando Gaviria and his attempt to win a Monument this year. Gaviria is a great pick for Milano-Sanremo, but something tells me all this hype about him training with former MSR winner Alessandro Petacchi means he’s trying a little too hard. Perhaps he should train with Stuart O’Grady, who never won MSR but was always in the mix. That would really give Gaviria that chill, “maybe I’ll win, maybe I won’t win” vibe that winners always seem to have.
It had been awhile since we were treated to a good-old-fashioned sticky bottle scandal. Then, during Paris-Nice stage 1, Romain Bardet crashed and then got a bottle I’d classify as Gorilla Glue-level sticky (apologies to André Griepel). Here’s the thing: Bardet handled the ensuing PR like a champ. He immediately went to Twitter and offered a sincere apology that really gave us all the warm fuzzies. Call me crazy, but I like Bardet MORE after this incident. Brilliant PR play! Scandal over! Perhaps we should have seen this coming. As Andy Hood reported in his profile on Bardet, the Frenchman recently finished his Master’s Degree, and part of his schooling required him to work as a PR guy for a rugby club in France. Wow, the things they teach you at PR school! Maybe Bardet could teach Nibali a thing or two …
Bad news for Axel Merckx’s Axeon Hagens Berman team — they didn’t get selected to race the Amgen Tour of California. The Twittersphere has been abuzz with flaming nuclear weapons-grade takes around this story, in case you missed it. If I were a domestic elite racer (a tremendous stretch, for reasons noted in the Gaviria bit), I’d be quaking in my cleats. Make no mistake about it, the Axeon guys will be riding with a California-sized chip on their shoulders this season, which is probably going to make races like Redlands and Cascade extra fast … and painful.